Managing different generations in the workplace

By September 20, 2016Management & HR
Management & HR

A workforce that includes Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials can be a great asset to employers, providing a diverse collection of skills and experience. These generational groups, however, often have very different needs when it comes to management style – which means that one size does not fit all.

Here are some tips on how to manage different generations in the workplace.

Managing Expectations. Different generations will be at different stages in their lives and careers. A young, unattached Millennial will not have the same ambitions for promotion and time off as a Boomer or Gen Xer with two kids and a mortgage. Employers who know the individual goals and values of their team members will be better able to set effective targets and incentives for employees to keep that team moving forward and feeling positive.

Tip: Think of cost-effective ways to address different career mindsets, such as flexible working hours, work-related committees, and opportunities to share ideas, such as one-on-one meetings.

Managing Tension Between Generations. Each generation will have different goals and values, and this can sometimes cause tension in the workplace. To prevent conflicts and misunderstandings, learn to look past groups and potential stereotypes to focus on individual needs and personalities. It’s also a good idea to defuse conflicts as quickly and lightly as possible (“Ok, let’s move on,” “Let’s stay on task,”).

Tip: Don’t let these stereotypes cloud your expectations for individual employees. Criticize privately, praise publicly – knowing that you value the diversity of your team’s views and experiences will help to increase trust in your leadership and empower others to reduce tension.

Managing Working Habits. Different generations often tend to work differently. Technology is a case is point. Boomers and Gen Xers may be more likely to communicate by phone or email, and less likely to communicate after hours. Millennials, meanwhile, will may feel more at home working on Slack on a similar internal messaging system.

Tip: Have your managers poll their teams to find out what sort of internal work process they like most. You’ll never be able to make everyone happy, but the trick is finding a solution that balances efficiency with staff satisfaction. It’s also a good idea for you and your managers to understand what mode of communication individual workers respond best to.

Encourage Collaboration.  Millennials may feel that they have more knowledge and experience with newer technologies. While older age groups can lean on their experience and contacts to solve a number of challenges. Teaming Millennials with Boomers or Gen Xers can be very beneficial to your company, helping to build more cohesive, dynamic teams.

Tip: Assess individual and team success regularly and reward accordingly with tangible items that encourage a co-operative approach. For example, team-based awards and inter-generational mentorship programs.

Managing Individuals. Ultimately, remember that you’re not actually managing generations. You’re managing individuals, and individuals do not have to conform to presupposed assumptions about their cores values, even if society has decided they should. If fact, more recent research suggests that managerial decisions based solely on presumptions of generational differences may be a risky way to run a business.

Tip: Investigate ways and new benefits to acknowledge everyone as an individual and hire facilitators for team-building with expertise in age diversity.


About Susan Varty
Susan Varty is a corporate writer and co-founder of HeadStart Social and Women Get On Board Inc.

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